Jackson County Head Start Now Accepting Applications

Head-Start-Logo Jackson County Head Start Now Accepting Applications

Head Start is now accepting applications for the 2018-2019 school year. This is a federally funded educational opportunity which is free to parents. Your family must simply meet federal guidelines to be approved. Our teachers are consistently trained in the latest curriculum to help your child become ready for public school. Does your child have an IEP? We now have on staff behavioral specialists to help your child grow and learn. Your child will likely qualify! Hurry and apply online at www.jccivicaction.org before the mandatory spaces for each classroom are full. We have centers in Moss Point, Pascagoula, Gautier, and Ocean Springs. School begins August 7th, 2018. Don’t wait!


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National Dairy Goat Awareness Week… No Kidding!

Goats seem to be everywhere these days.  From funny commercials on TV to goat yoga (look it up, you’ll thank me later); goats have gone viral. In addition to the cuteness factor, goats have gained popularity for the milk they provide. Seven years ago, Ken and Brenda Goff of Vancleave embarked on a journey to raise and breed quality milk goats.

The Goffs wanted a self-sustainable lifestyle and spent six months researching what type of goats would be productive for Briarcrest Farm. There are two types of goats: dairy or meat. The Goffs chose to raise purebred Nubian dairy goats because they, “fell in love with the way they look,” according to Brenda. Nubians are a popular goat because of the high butter fat content of the milk. The milk is used not only for drinking, but in products like soap and hand lotion.

During the first year of raising goats, the Goffs found themselves with an abundance of goat milk. After drinking the milk and making cheese and yogurt, Brenda says, “we still had milk coming out of our ears.” Soon, Brenda began researching how to make soap from goat’s milk and was surprised by what she found.

 “It’s so good for your skin.  Soap from a store is like rubbing detergent on skin,” remarks Brenda.  “People come several times a week, by appointment, to buy soap. People with psoriasis and acne swear by it.” Briarcrest Farm soap is made from 100% goat’s milk and highest quality food grade ingredients. The soap is handmade through a cold process which maintains the quality of each ingredient. 

The Goffs are diligent about the care given to each of the 20 goats currently on the farm. The goats are milked twice daily, and once a month, a sample of the milk is sent to Langston University in Oklahoma for analysis. The results of the testing will be included in the goat’s permanent record, which is then sent to the Dairy Records Management System. The DRMS keeps track of a goat’s heritable traits for future breeding information.

Additionally, Briarcrest Farm goats have earned numerous awards throughout show competitions in the Southeast. With the rise in goat ownership, the Goffs and other owners have started a new dairy association called Southern Browsers. The purpose of the association is to give new or potential goat owners the information needed to properly raise goats.

You may visit Briarcrest Farm at 10401 Cherokee Rose Road in Vancleave to purchase soaps. Appointments are available during weekdays by calling 228. 366.0254 or email: brendagoff@briarcrestfarm.com.  The soaps are also available at the Second Saturday Farmer’s Market in Gautier City Park from 8am-12pm. You can also learn more at www.briarcrestfarm.com and follow their farm happenings on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BriarcrestFarm/

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Who are the Pascagoula Paradise Paddlers?

Surrounded by a couple of Pascagoula locals, Kristi Ducote and Eric Richards along with some Hurricane Shrimp Tacos from Brady’s, I found myself enchanted by the stories and opportunities a SaltLife person is looking for.  Pascagoula Paradise Paddlers (PPP) consists of a core group of about 7 members give or take a few. It all started a little over 6 years ago with the Gulf Coast Summerfest. GCS needed a kayak event or two and Paradise Paddlers was born when a few enthusiasts found each other at the Choctaw Marina launch and voila!  They all said, “Let’s do this again!” Since then they have been meeting nearly every month to explore another blueway beauty in Jackson County. Eric Richards, a founding member, says, “it allows newcomers to the sport to meet other enthusiasts, but also shows the great paradise we have here… all the attributes of our natural resources.” 

When I asked what some of the “standout” virtues and ventures are, he replied, “…camaraderie and the Cumbest Bayou Fish Fry Paddle” (my personal favorite).  Each Fall, one of the paddles is along the beautiful banks of Cumbest Bayou. Once the group arrives at an old Indian shell midden island, fresh speckled trout from the bayou are fried up and served with plenty of sides and snacks, by Fletcher Songe and Charlie McVea (more PPP founding members). All of the ventures are very family friendly and safety is always a number one priority. Most all floats utilize the services of local marine law enforcement escorts and/or a lead/follow safety kayaker. There are: Blood Moon, Super Moon, Sunset/Moon-rise, Fall/Spring, Day/Night, and event paddles year round.  You’ll enjoy some of the night paddles which employ some “MacGyver-like” decorated boats with lights and more. I asked Eric which venture is the most scenic. He replied, “the Franklin Creek paddle out of Presley’s Outing… the trees and canopy are incredible in both summer and winter… they have very different looks with and without foliage.”

The City of Pascagoula’s outdoor recreation specialist and PPP member, Kristi Ducote, shares about some of the partnering events that bring the Paradise Paddlers and city recreation together.  On June 23rd, the rescheduled Pascagoula Run Paddle Battle, which stretches 12.5 miles from Little River Marina to Lighthouse Park, will bring in some serious kayak talent from across the south; but it’s not a race for all.  For some, it’s a great chance to see a long stretch of bayou and river blueway along the Pascagoula River delta. “Even if you’re not up to the 12.5 mile paddle, we have two pullout points downstream for those who want less of a challenge,” said Ducote.  Online registration will last through Thursday, June 22nd, but you can still attend and register at the meetup on Friday June 23rd at Brady’s Steak and Seafood, 3801 Magnolia St. from 5:00-8:00PM. Go to the City of Pascagoula link (https://cityofpascagoula.com/467/Pascagoula-Run-Paddle-Battle) for more info on this event and others like the June 29th PaddlePalooza from River Park to Huck’s Cove, which is a Sunset/Moonrise adventure.  Also, Nelson Outdoors of Pascagoula is always happy to provide you with a rental, complete with all safety gear. And I’ll bet they’ll hook you up with your own rig, if you’re in the market!

So, if you are a beginner, an explorer, enthusiast, or just plain ole Salty Dog; come enjoy the paradise Jackson County has to offer.  You’ll meet some really cool folks and see some breathtaking beauty. The PPP doesn’t have an official website, but if you go the Mississippi Kayaking Meetup Group page, you can stay tuned for upcoming adventures: (https://www.meetup.com/Mississippi-Kayak-Meetup-Group/).  Also, the City of Pascagoula updates their recreation website with the latest on kayaking events in the area: (https://cityofpascagoula.com/327/Outdoor-Recreation)

Get SALTY Y’all!

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New Whispering Pines Clubhouse Scores Points with Customers

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The new clubhouse at Whispering Pines golf course has been bringing some new faces to the golf course since it opened four months ago, according to management.

Richie Diamond, facilities manager, said many of the newer faces are there to eat a good meal instead of swing a golf club.
The 3,400-square-foot clubhouse opened in February with an expanded menu at the grill, indoor and covered outdoor dining areas, lockers in each bathroom, and an updated pro shop.

“We see a lot of new faces these days. Surprisingly, as many at the grill as there is to play a round of golf,” Diamond said.

Diamond said that Jackson County Supervisors, along with state Sen. Manly Barton, were instrumental in budgeting funds for the $1.2 million project. The 18-hole, 72-par course is operated by the county and is managed by the county’s Recreation Department, and the funds for the project came from the county’s General Fund.

“It shows how committed the Supervisors are to providing quality recreational facilities to the residents of Jackson County. Our golf course is available to all High Schools and Community Colleges in Jackson County, at no cost and is considered the home course of some,” Diamond said.

Aside from this project, Jackson County has put more than $800,000 since 2013 into improving the course. This most recent project also included improvements to the parking lot. Diamond said the next big improvement likely will be a new pavilion to replace the one that was removed from the property when the new clubhouse was built.

The clubhouse and course open at 7 a.m. Sunday – Tuesday and Thursday – Saturday, and at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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Fox Squirrels Entertain Golfers at Whispering Pines

Picture2-copy Fox Squirrels Entertain Golfers at Whispering Pines

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Whispering Pines Golf Course has some visitors that like the course so much, they’re calling it home—and they don’t even golf!
Fox Squirrels have moved in, and they’re welcome to stay, according to Facilities Manager Richie Diamond. Diamond said the colony of about 30 fox squirrels, named for their orange coloring and bushy tails, offer some entertainment to golfers waiting to hit their next shot during a busy day at the Hurley course.

“We’ve actually had photographers come out for the sole purpose of taking photos of the squirrels,” Diamond said.

To be clear, South Mississippi, with its river beds and woods, is no stranger to squirrels in general, but, as Pascagoula River Audubon Center Director Mark LaSalle explains, we’re used to seeing the gray squirrel in Jackson County. The gray squirrel tends to favor the piney woods common in this area.

The fox squirrel population, on the other hand, is “spotty” in Jackson County, LaSalle said. If groups of them are found, they’re found near river bottomland forests.

“You hear about them every once in awhile, but not so much in Jackson County, unless you get up farther north,” LaSalle said.
Why Whispering Pines? LaSalle surmises that, quite simply, the golf course must have the right mixture of everything that fox squirrels need to thrive.

Picture2-copy Fox Squirrels Entertain Golfers at Whispering Pines

Now that the new furry friends have settled down at the golf course, both LaSalle and Diamond agree that they easily co-exist with humans in a situation like this. (In fact, they probably aren’t even paying enough attention to judge your golf game.)
“They tend to go about their daily squirrel routine while paying very little attention to human activities,” Diamond said.

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Burger Barn Serves as Vancleave Staple for Burgers and Ice Cream

Burger-Barn-1 Burger Barn Serves as Vancleave Staple for Burgers and Ice Cream

Have you been to the Burger Barn in Vancleave yet? If so, you’ve joined people that come from around the region to take part in this Vancleave tradition. If not, it might be time to give the Vancleave staple a try.

Approximately four years ago, Lisa and Larry Green took ownership of the burger joint, which has always been “the place to go” in Vancleave. In that time, the Greens have seen the Burger Barn continue to be a regular meeting place for many Vancleave residents and visitors coming through the town on Highway 57.

People come to the Burger Barn, sit down inside, visit, and talk, according to Lisa Green. “We serve the community. We have good food, family oriented,” she said, adding that they get a lot of work and school traffic there as well. She’s confident that once people visit they “always come back when they’re in the area.”

The Burger Barn is also located close to the high school, so it’s a regular hangout spot for students after school and after big school events like football games.

Burger-Barn-1 Burger Barn Serves as Vancleave Staple for Burgers and Ice Cream

The family-oriented Burger Barn is one of the only places in Vancleave for a burger, but it’s more than that too. Visitors can get po boys, shrimp, catfish, ice cream, chicken tenders, chili dogs, and more. They also have monthly burger specials.

Moving forward, the Greens hope to keep the business growing and have discussed putting in a drive through. They’ve also discussed the possibility of expanding to a second location in Hurley, which is where the Greens are from.

You can visit this Vancleave staple at 12316 Highway 57 in Vancleave. See their specials and more on their Facebook page.

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Bringing Blueberry Heaven to Earth

Blueberry-Heaven-2 Bringing Blueberry Heaven to Earth
Blueberry-Heaven-2 Bringing Blueberry Heaven to Earth

Blueberry Heaven is once again available for blueberry picking and now – the second and third weeks of June – is the best time to do so.

Sissy Inabinette, who works on the farm, says that blueberry season really runs from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, so now is the time to come to their farm in Vancleave for the best crop. She said the first week of June is also an ideal time to pick their berries, so those interested can go ahead and plan for next year.

According to Inabinette, this year’s weather has been more conducive for the blueberries than last year’s, and they have a great crop. “We’ve absolutely been getting the proper amount of rain and the proper amount of sunshine now,” she said.

This year, they’ve also welcomed many new customers. Inabinette said that, out of the 400 people who have come through so far, 300 of them have been new. She said that word of mouth has been the best way to spread the news of their U-pick blueberry farm.

“It’s amazing to me the amount of people that are coming that didn’t know this existed,” Inabinette said.

The Vancleave farm, which has become a local hot spot, has approximately 6,300 blueberry bushes showcasing four different blueberry varieties. Picking blueberries seems to be a favorite for the kids that visit the farm as well. According to Inabinette, many of the kids think they don’t like blueberries, but they find that the ones at Blueberry Heaven taste different than the ones from the grocery store.

Visitors can pick their blueberries directly for $10 a gallon. Visitors can also get pre-picked ones that are fresh or frozen for $20 a gallon.

Weather permitting, the season may run a little past July 4. After that, the farm is on an honor system for those who want to brave the heat and the grass. You can get more details about Blueberry Heaven here.

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Children and Families Find Hope in Jackson County Through Pilot Program

sigalas Children and Families Find Hope in Jackson County Through Pilot Program

Judge Sharon Sigalas

Foster Children in Jackson County are finding hope in being reunited with their parents and families through a pilot Re-Unification Program hosted by the Jackson County Youth Court  (JCYC). For the first time Wednesday, May 9th 2018, children, parents, and foster parents came together to celebrate children being reunited with their parents at a banquet hosted by Judge Sharon Sigalas and the Jackson County Youth Court.  Other leaders were also present including local D.A., Tony Lawrence and State Senator Brice Wiggins.

There are many reasons why this program is important as fostered children numbers continue to rise.  Senator Brice Wiggins and other coastal legislators worked to see legislation passed in 2016 that would stimulate this process.  The Senator reports that in the state of Mississippi, 2/3 of all foster children reside in the lower 3 counties of Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson.  Although the legislation passed, funding such a program is always an issue.

sigalas Children and Families Find Hope in Jackson County Through Pilot Program

Senator Brice Wiggins

While much of the details surrounding these cases are confidential, a judicial study group worked to find a way to enhance the law to encourage reunification and celebrate the success stories of reunification.  Consequently, the idea of a Reunification Banquet was born and Judge Sigalas stepped up to make it happen.

Thanks to funding from the Annie E. Casey foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and an additional 100 million from the Mississippi State Legislature 2017 budget, the reunification program is gaining strength.  The first inaugural Reunification Banquet by JCYC highlights an intensive and comprehensive rehabilitation approach to helping children in foster care reunite with their parents toward permanency. Through the aid of a trained, credentialed, Parent Representative appointee, parents are coached through court dates, rehabilitation, counseling, legal help, and more while the children receive the care and attention they need through foster care.

sigalas Children and Families Find Hope in Jackson County Through Pilot Program

Commissioner, Jess Dickinson

sigalas Children and Families Find Hope in Jackson County Through Pilot Program

Jurist in Residence, John Hudson

According to Judge Sigalas, “since this is a pilot program, there is a lot of data that needs to be collected and compared across the state in order to determine the strengths and weakness in the program”.  She credits Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services (MDCPS) commissioner, Jess Dickinson, and John Hudson, Jurist in Residence (Youth Courts) Mississippi Supreme Court with making the reunification program a  priority within the Mississippi Youth Court system. Both were in attendance at the banquet and Commissioner Dickinson was the keynote speaker at the banquet. He emphasized the importance of why this program is vital to the lives of children and families.  Judge Sigalas said, “The fact that the (MDCPS) Commissioner would drive here to be a part of this event speaks to the importance of it”. Senator Wiggins added, “the new law encourages reunification… no one wants a child to remain in the system. This event highlights the success stories and they need to be told.  JCYC and CASA of Jackson County are on the forefront to making this program successful”.

As the first Reunification Banquet is now in the books for Judge Sigalas and the JCYC staff, she and her colleagues look forward to the program expanding across the state and here in Jackson County, thus putting children and parents back together in healthy, productive, caring homes.  The success stories do need to be told and celebrated because the reunification program is important to the success of many children and families in our community and across our state.

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Set Free by Grace

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June 19, 2002 is a date that Rodney Darren Williams will never forget. On that day, he experienced a painful event that would mark the beginning of a renewed life. Rodney, who had battled alcohol and drug addiction for over 20 years, was blown up while cooking methamphetamine in a small trailer.

During the ride to the hospital following the explosion, Rodney turned his life over to Jesus Christ. Although he knew he wanted to change, he wasn’t sure how do it. Earlier in 2002, Williams’ first trip to rehab at the Home of Grace, a Christ-centered recovery center, ended after only one week.

While spending three months at the University of South Alabama Burn Center to treat second and third degree burns, a local pastor came to visit with Rodney. Brother Bill Barton served as pastor of Wade Baptist Church and also the founded of the nationally known Home of Grace in 1965.

Williams says, “even though I was ready for change; I didn’t know how to change. And God directed me to Home of Grace and they began to give me the tools I needed to go out and live a victorious life. They showed me how to walk in this freedom provided by Christ’s sacrifice.”

Following completion of the Home of Grace program, Williams wrote a book called Club Meth to Christ. The book documents his journey from addiction to redemption through Jesus Christ. “It’s such a great joy in my life, to be set free (from addiction), that I want to go out and share with the world how to be free.” Over 60,000 books have been distributed, with another 10,000 set to be printed this year.

Soon after the book publication, Williams started Club Meth to Christ Ministries, a 501c3 non-profit organization. Free books are available through the ministry’s website: clubmethtochrist.com. Donations to offset book costs are accepted, but not required. Williams doesn’t know how many people have been touched by his book. Free books are given to jail and prison inmates who then pass it along to other inmates to read, spreading Williams’ message of redemption.

The ministry’s main objective is leading people to Jesus Christ through Christian rehab facilities. “Trying to show people how to be set free, to be released from the bondage of addiction,” says Williams. Rodney continues to send people to the Home of Grace for help as well as preaching there at least once a month for the past 15 years.

Williams see the Home of Grace as one of the best facilities in the country. “The Home of Grace has helped so many people. I’ve been to a lot of different ministries, a lot of different rehabs; and Home of Grace ministries is top of the line.” The Home of Grace has two locations in Jackson County: Home of Grace Men on Jericho Road in Vancleave and The Haven located in Gautier on Home of Grace Drive. “Everywhere I go (in Jackson County), people come up and tell me that they’ve been through the Home of Grace program,” say Williams.
Williams says his biggest takeaway from the Home of Grace is staying plugged in to the word of God and renewing the mind. “You have to stay plugged in to a community of Christ followers, which is the Church. We are daily being conformed by the world; it’s throwing all these things, bad things, at us. We must stand on the Word of the Lord.”

Rodney’s story has been aired around the world through a variety of media outlets in over 147 countries; in 10 different languages. The 700 Club also dramatized his story and aired it twice. “God has really taken this message of freedom around the world,” says Williams.

Williams lives in the Hurley community with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children. He can be reached directly at (228) 990-5982 or through the website: clubmethtochrist.com.

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